1-Kings - 12:1-33

Split of the Kingdom (Rehoboam, Solomon's Son in the South)

      1 Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. 2 It happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam lived in Egypt, 3 and they sent and called him), that Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came, and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 "Your father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make you the grievous service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, lighter, and we will serve you." 5 He said to them, "Depart for three days, then come back to me." The people departed. 6 King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, "What counsel do you give me to return answer to this people?" 7 They spoke to him, saying, "If you will be a servant to this people this day, and will serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever." 8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 He said to them, "What counsel do you give, that we may return answer to this people, who have spoken to me, saying, 'Make the yoke that your father did put on us lighter?'" 10 The young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, "Thus you shall tell this people who spoke to you, saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but make it lighter to us;' you shall say to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. 11 Now whereas my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.'" 12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king asked, saying, "Come to me again the third day." 13 The king answered the people roughly, and forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, 14 and spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." 15 So the king didn't listen to the people; for it was a thing brought about of Yahweh, that he might establish his word, which Yahweh spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 16 When all Israel saw that the king didn't listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, "What portion have we in David? Neither do we have an inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, Israel! Now see to your own house, David." So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But as for the children of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the men subject to forced labor; and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. King Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel rebelled against the house of David to this day. 20 It happened, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was returned, that they sent and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. 21 When Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen men, who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 "Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, saying, 24 'Thus says Yahweh, "You shall not go up, nor fight against your brothers, the children of Israel. Everyone return to his house; for this thing is of me."'" So they listened to the word of Yahweh, and returned and went their way, according to the word of Yahweh. 25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived in it; and he went out from there, and built Penuel. 26 Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27 If this people goes up to offer sacrifices in the house of Yahweh at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me, and return to Rehoboam king of Judah." 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and see your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" 29 He set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 This thing became a sin; for the people went (to worship) before the one, even to Dan. 31 He made houses of high places, and made priests from among all the people, who were not of the sons of Levi. 32 Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; so did he in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 33 He went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart: and he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and went up to the altar, to burn incense.

Chapter In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of 1-Kings 12.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

The people go to Shechem to make Rehoboam king, and send for Jeroboam out of Egypt, who with the heads of the tribes, requests relief from the heavy burdens laid on them by Solomon, 1-Kings 12:1-4. He requires three days to consider their petition, 1-Kings 12:5. He rejects the counsel of the elders, who served his father, and follows that of young men, and returns the people a provoking answer, 1-Kings 12:6-15. The people therefore renounce the family of David, stone to death Adoram, who came to receive their tribute, and make Jeroboam king; none cleaving to Rehoboam but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, 1-Kings 12:16-20. Rehoboam comes to Jerusalem, and assembles all the fighting men of Judah and Benjamin, and finds the number to be one hundred and eighty thousand; and with these he purposes to reduce the men of Israel to his allegiance, but is forbidden by the Prophet Shemaiah, 1-Kings 12:21-24. Jeroboam builds Shechem in Mount Ephraim and Penuel, 1-Kings 12:25. And lest the people should be drawn away from their allegiance to him by going up to Jerusalem to worship, he makes two golden calves, and sets them up, one in Daniel, the other in Beth-el, and the people worship them, 1-Kings 12:26-30. He makes priests of the lowest of the people, and establishes the fifteenth day of the eighth month as a feast to his new gods; makes offerings, and burns incense, 1-Kings 12:31-33.

This chapter relates Rehoboam's going to Shechem to be made king, and Jeroboam's return from Egypt, 1-Kings 12:1, the people's request to Rehoboam to be eased of their taxes, as the condition of making him king, 1-Kings 12:3, his answer to them, after three days, having had the advice both of the old and young men, which latter he followed, and gave in a rough answer, 1-Kings 12:5, upon which ten tribes revolted from him, and two abode by him, 1-Kings 12:16, wherefore he meditated a war against the ten tribes, but was forbid by the Lord to engage in it, 1-Kings 12:21 and Jeroboam, in order to establish his kingdom, and preserve the people from a revolt to the house of David, because of the temple worship at Jerusalem, devised a scheme of idolatrous worship in his own territories, 1-Kings 12:25.

(1-Kings 12:1-15) Rehoboam's accession, The people's petition, His rough answer.
(1-Kings 12:16-24) Ten tribes revolt.
(1-Kings 12:25-33) Jeroboam's idolatry.

II. History of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the Destruction of the Former - 1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17
After the death of Solomon the Israelitish kingdom of God was rent asunder, through the renunciation of the Davidic sovereignty by the ten tribes, into the two kingdoms of Israel (the ten tribes) and Judah; and through this division not only was the external political power of the Israelitish state weakened, but the internal spiritual power of the covenant nation was deeply shaken. And whilst the division itself gave rise to two small and weak kingdoms in the place of one strong nation, the power of both was still further shaken by their attitude towards each other. - The history of the two kingdoms divides itself into three epochs. In the first epoch, i.e., the period from Jeroboam to Omri in Israel, and from Rehoboam to Asa in Judah (1 Kings 12-16), they maintained a hostile attitude towards each other, until Israel sustained a severe defeat in a great war with Judah; and on the renewal of its attacks upon Judah, king Asa called the Syrians to his help, and thereby entangled Israel in long and severe conflicts with this powerful neighbouring state. The hostility terminated in the second epoch, under Ahab and his sons Ahaziah and Joram in Israel, and under Jehoshaphat, Joram, and Ahaziah of Judah, since the two royal families connected themselves by marriage, and formed an alliance for the purpose of a joint attack upon their foreign foes, until the kings of both kingdoms, viz., Joram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah, were slain at the same time by Jehu (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 10:27). This period of union was followed in the third epoch, from Jehu in Israel and Joash in Judah onwards, by further estrangement and reciprocal attacks, which led eventually to the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians through the untheocratical policy of Ahaz.
If we take a survey of the attitude of the two kingdoms towards the Lord, the invisible God-King of His people, during these three epochs, to all appearance the idolatry was stronger in the kingdom of Judah than in the kingdom of Israel. For in the latter it is only under Ahab and his two sons, under whom the worship of Baal was raised into the state religion at the instigation of Jezebel the Phoenician wife of Ahab, that we meet with the actual worship of idols. Of the other kings both before and afterwards, all that is related is, that they walked in the ways of Jeroboam, and did not desist from his sin, the worship of the calves. In the kingdom of Judah, on the other hand, out of thirteen kings, only five were so truly devoted to the Lord that they promoted the worship of Jehovah and opposed idolatry (viz., Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah). Of the others, it is true that Joash and Amaziah walked for a long time in the ways of the Lord, but in the closing years of their reign they forsook the God of their fathers to serve idols and worship them (2-Chronicles 24:18 and 2-Chronicles 25:14.). Even Rehoboam was strengthened at the outset in the worship of Jehovah by the Levites who emigrated from the kingdom of the ten tribes to Judah; but in the course of three years he forsook the law of the Lord, and Judah with him, so that altars of high places, Baal columns, and Asherah idols, were set up on every hill and under every green tree, and there were even male prostitutes in the land, and Judah practised all the abominations of the nations that were cut off before Israel (1-Kings 14:23-24; 2-Chronicles 11:13-17; 2-Chronicles 12:1). In all these sins of his father Abijam also walked (1-Kings 15:3). At a later period, in the reign of Joram, the worship of Baal was transplanted from Israel to Judah and Jerusalem, and was zealously maintained by Ahaziah and his mother Athaliah. It grew still worse under Ahaz, who even went so far as to set up an idolatrous altar in the court of the temple and to close the temple doors, for the purpose of abolishing altogether the legal worship of Jehovah. But notwithstanding this repeated spread of idolatry, the apostasy from the Lord was not so great and deep in the kingdom of Judah as in the kingdom of Israel. This is evident from the fact that idolatry could not strike a firm root there, inasmuch as the kings who were addicted to it were always followed by pious and God-fearing rulers, who abolished the idolatrous abominations, and nearly all of whom had long reigns; so that during the 253 years which intervened between the division of the kingdom and the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, idolatry did not prevail in Judah for much more than fifty-three years,
(Note: Namely, fourteen years under Rehoboam, three under Abijah, six under Joram, one under Ahaziah, six under Athaliah, and sixteen under Ahaz, - in all forty-six years; to which we have also to add the closing years of the reigns of Joash and Amaziah.)
and for about 200 years the worship of the true God was maintained according to the commandment of the law. This constant renewal of a victorious reaction against the foreign deities shows very clearly that the law of God, with its ordinances and institutions for divine worship, had taken firm and deep root in the people and kingdom, and that the reason why idolatry constantly revived and lifted up its head afresh was, that the worship of Jehovah prescribed in the law made no concessions to the tendency to idolatry in hearts at enmity against God. It was different with the kingdom of the ten tribes. There the fact that idolatry only appeared in the reigns of Ahab and his sons and successors, is to be accounted for very simply from the attitude of that kingdom towards the Lord and His lawful worship. Although, for instance, the secession of the ten tribes from the house of David was threatened by God, as a punishment that would come upon Solomon and his kingdom on account of Solomon's idolatry; on the part of the rebellious tribes themselves it was simply the ripe fruit of their evil longing for a less theocratic and more heathen kingdom, and nothing but the work of opposition to the royal house appointed by Jehovah, which had already shown itself more than once in the reign of David, though is had been suppressed again by the weight of his government, which was strong in the Lord.
This opposition became open rebellion against the Lord, when Jeroboam, its head, gave the ten tribes a religious constitution opposed to the will of God for the purpose of establishing his throne, and not only founded a special sanctuary for his subjects, somewhat after the model of the tabernacle or of the temple at Jerusalem, but also set up golden calves as symbols and images of Jehovah the invisible God, to whom no likeness can be made. This image-worship met the wishes and religious cravings of the sensual and carnally-minded people, because it so far filled up the gap between the legal worship of Jehovah and the worship of the nature-deities, that the contrast between Jehovah and the Baalim almost entirely disappeared, and the principal ground was thereby removed for the opposition on the part of the idolatrous nation to the stringent and exclusive worship of Jehovah. In this respect the worship of the calves worked more injuriously upon the religious and moral life of the nation than the open worship of idols. This sin of Jeroboam is therefore "the ground, the root and cause of the very sinful development of the kingdom of Israel, which soon brought down the punishment of God, since even from the earliest time one judgment after another fell openly upon the kingdom. For beside the sin of Jeroboam, that which was the ground of its isolation continued to increase, and gave rise to tumult, opposing aspirants to the throne, and revolutionary movements in the nation, so that the house of Israel was often split up within itself" (Ziegler). Therefore the judgment, with which even from the time of Moses the covenant nation had been threatened in case of obstinate rebellion against its God, namely the judgment of dispersion among the heathen, fell upon the ten tribes much earlier than upon Judah, because Israel had filled up the measure of sin earlier than Judah.
The chronological computation of this period, both as a whole and in its separate details, is one of the more difficult features connected with this portion of the history of the Israelitish kingdom. As our books give not only the length of time that every king both of Israel and Judah reigned, but also the time when every king of Israel ascended the throne, calculated according to the year of the reign of the contemporaneous king of Judah, and vice versa, these accounts unquestionably furnish us with very important help in determining the chronology of the separate data; but this again is rendered difficult and uncertain by the fact, that the sum-total of the years of the several kings is greater, as a rule, than the number of years that they can possibly have reigned according to the synchronistic accounts of the contemporaneous sovereigns in the other kingdom. Chronologists have therefore sought from time immemorial to reconcile the discrepancies by assuming inaccuracies in the accounts, or regencies and interregna. The necessity for such assumptions is indisputable, from the fact that the discrepancies in the numbers of the years are absolutely irreconcilable without them.
(Note: This is indirectly admitted even by O. Wolff (in his Versuch die Widersprche in den Jahrreihen der Knige Juda's und Israel's und andere Differenzen in der bibl. Chronologie auszugleichen; Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 625ff.), though for the most part he declares himself opposed to such assumptions as arbitrary loopholes, inasmuch as, with his fundamental principle to adhere firmly to the years of the reigns of the kings of Judah as normative, he is only able to effect a reconciliation by shortening at his pleasure the length of the reigns given in the text for the kings of Israel in the period extending from Rehoboam to the death of Ahaziah of Judah, and in the following period by arbitrarily interpolating a thirty-one years' interregnum of the Israelitish kings in the kingdom of Judah between Amaziah and Uzziah.)
But if the application of them in the several cases is not to be dependent upon mere caprice, the reconciliation of the sum-totals of the years that the different kings reigned with the differences which we obtain from the chronological data in the synchronistic accounts must be effected upon a fixed and well-founded historical principle, regencies and interregna being only assumed in cases where there are clear indications in the text. Most of the differences can be reconciled by consistently observing and applying the principle pointed out in the Talmud, viz., that the years of the kings are reckoned from Nisan to Nisan, and that with such precision, that even a single day before or after Nisan is reckoned as equal to a year, - a mode of reckoning which is met with even in the New Testament, e.g., in the statement that Jesus rose from the dead after three days, or on the third day, and also in the writings of Josephus, so that it is no doubt an early Jewish custom,
(Note: Compare Gemara babyl. tract. השנה ראש, c. i. fol. 3, p. 1, ed. Amstel.: למלכים להם מונין אין מניסן אלא, "non numerant in regibus nisi a Nisano" (i.e., regum annos nonnisi a Nisano numerant). After quoting certain passages, he says as a proof of this, ישראל למלכי אלא שׁני לא חסדא אמר ר, "dixit R. Chasda: hoc non docent nisi de regibus Israelitarum." - Ibid. fol. 2, p. 2; השנה ראש ניסן שנה השוב בשנה אחד ויום למלכים, "Nisanus initium anni regibus, ac dies quidem unus in anno (videl. post calendas Nisani) instar anni computatur." - Ibid.: שנה חשוב שנה בסוף אחד יום, "unus dies in fine anni pro anno computatur." For the examples of the use of this mode of calculation in Josephus, see Wieseler, chronol. Synopse der vier Evangelien (Ham. 1852), p. 52ff. They are sufficient of themselves to refute the assertion of Joach. Hartmann, Systema chronol. bibl., Rostoch. 1777, p. 253f., that this is a mere invention of the Rabbins and later commentators, even though the biblical writers may not have carried it out to such an extent as to reckon one single day before or after the commencement of Nisan as equal to a whole year, as is evident from 2-Kings 15:17 and 2-Kings 15:23.)
- for, according to this, it is not necessary to assume a single interregnum in the kingdom of Judah, and only one regency (that of Joram with his father Jehoshaphat), which is clearly indicated in the text (2-Kings 8:16); and in the kingdom of Israel there is no necessity to assume a single regency, and only two interregna (the first after Jeroboam II, the second between Pekah and Hoshea).
If, for example, we arrange the chronological data of the biblical text upon this principle, we obtain for the period between the division of the kingdom and the Babylonian captivity the following table, which only differs from the statements in the text in two instances,
(Note: Namely, in the fact that the commencement of the reign of Jehoahaz of Israel is placed in the twenty-second year of Joash of Judah, and not in the twenty-third, according to 2-Kings 13:1, and that that of Azariah or Uzziah of Judah is placed in the fifteenth year of Jeroboam of Israel, and not the twenty-seventh, according to 2-Kings 15:1. The reasons for this will be given in connection with the passages themselves.)
and has a guarantee of its correctness in the fact that it coincides with the well-established chronological data of the universal history of the ancient world.
(Note: Not only with the ordinary chronological calculation as to the beginning and end of this entire period, which has been adopted in most text-books of the biblical history, and taken from Usserii Annales Vet. et Novi Test., but also with such data of ancient history as have been astronomically established. For the fourth year of Jehoiakim, with which the captivity or seventy years' servitude of the Jews in Babylon commences, coincides with the twenty-first year of the reign of Nabopolasar, in the fifth year of whose reign an eclipse of the moon, recorded in Almagest, was observed, which eclipse, according to the calculation of Ideler (in the Abhdll. der Berliner Academie der Wissensch. fr histor. Klasse of the year 1814, pp. 202 and 224), took place on April 22 of the year 621 b.c. Consequently the twenty-first year of Nabopolasar, in which he died, coincides with the year 605 b.c.; and the first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which occurred before the death of Nabopolasar, took place in the year 606 b.c. - Compare with this Marc. Niebuhr's Geschichte Assurs und Babels, p. 47. Among other things, this scholar observes, at p. 5, note 1, that "the whole of the following investigation has given us no occasion whatever to cherish any doubts as to the correctness of the narratives and numbers in the Old Testament;" and again, at p. 83ff., he has demonstrated the agreement of the chronological data of the Old Testament from Azariah or Uzziah to the captivity with the Canon of Ptolemy, and in so doing has only deviated two years from the numbers given in our chronological table, by assigning the battle at Carchemish to the year 143 aera Nabonas., i.e., 605 b.c., the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, 144 aer. Nab., or 604 b.c., and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the year 162 aer. Nab., or 586 b.c., - a difference which arises chiefly from the fact that Niebuhr reckons the years of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar given in the Old Test. from the death of Nabopolasar in the year 605, and assumes that the first year of Nebuchadnezzar corresponded to the year 605 b.c.)
1. From the Division of the Kingdom to the Ascent of the Throne by Ahab in the 38th Year of Asa King of Judah - 1 Kings 12-16:28
This epoch embraces only fifty-seven years, which are filled up in the kingdom of Judah by the reigns of three kings, and in the kingdom of Israel by six rulers from four different houses, Jeroboam's sin of rebellion against the ordinance and commandment of God having produced repeated rebellions, so that one dynasty was ever rising up to overthrow and exterminate another. - Commencing with the secession of the ten tribes from Rehoboam, we have first of all an account of the founding of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 12), and of the predictions of the prophets concerning the introduction of the calf-worship (1 Kings 13) and the rejection of Jeroboam and his house by God (1 Kings 14:1-20); and after this the most important facts connected with the reigns of Rehoboam, Abijam, and Asa are given (1 Kings 14:21-15:24); and, finally, a brief history of the kingdom of Israel from the ascent of the throne by Nadab to the death of Omri (1 Kings 15:25-16:28).

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